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MORTALITY AND MERCY IN VIENNA

Epoch (Cornell Univ.) Vol IX, No. 4


Spring, 1959
by Tom Pynchon

Just as Siegel got to the address Rachel had given him it started to rain again. All day rain
clouds had hung low and ragged-edged over Washington, ruining the view from the top of the
Monument for the high-school kids on their senior trips, sending brief squalls which drove
tourists squealing and cursing in to nd shelter, dulling the delicate pink of the cherry blossoms
shich had just come out. The address was a small apartment building on a quiet street near
Dupont Circle, and Siegel dove into the lobby, in out of the rain, clutching the fth of scotch
he was carrying as if it were a state secret. There had been times--during the past year, in the
Avenue Kleber or the Viale delle Terme di Caracalla--where there had been a brief case where
the fth was now, clutched under the same tweed-clad arm against rain or a deadline or some
bureaucratic necessity. And most of these times, especially if he were hung over from the night
before, or if a girl fellow junior diplomats had sworn was a sure thing had turned out to be so
much more than sure that in the end it had not been worth even the price of drinks, he would
shake his head like a drunk who is trying to stop seeing double, having become suddenly
conscious of the weight of the briefcase and the insignicance of its contents and the stupidity
of what he was doing out here, away from Rachel, following an obscure but clearly-marked
path through a jungle of distrainments and affadavits and depositions; wondering why, in his
rst days with the Commission, he should have ever regarded himself as any kind of healer
when he had always known that for a healer--a prophet actually, because if you cared about it
at all you had to be both--there is no question of balance sheets or legal complexity, and the
minute you become involved with anything like that you are something less; a doctor, or a
fortune-teller. When he was thirteen, a little less than a month after his bar mitzvah, his cousin
Miriam had died of cancer and perhaps it was then--sitting shivah on an orange crate in a
darkened room high over the Grand Concourse, gaunt and looking a little like a John Buchan
hero even at thirteen, gazing xedly at the symbolic razor slash halfway up his black necktie
that this awareness had begun to grow, because he still remembered Miriams husband
cursing Zeit the doctor, and the money wasted on the operations, and the whole AMA, crying
unashamed in this dim hot room with the drawn shades; and it had so disquieted young
Siegel that when his brother Mike had gone away to Yale to take pre-med he had been afraid
that something would go wrong and that Mike whom he loved would turn out to be only a
doctor, like Zeit, and be cursed someday too by a distraught husband in rent garments, in a
twilit bedroom. He would stand, therefore, out in some street, not moving, hanging on to the
briefcase and thinking about Rachel who was 4 10 in her stocking feet, whose neck was pale
and sleek, a Modigliani neck, whose eyes were not mirror images but both slanted the same
way, dark brown almost to fathomlessness, and after awhile he would drift up to the surface
again and be annoyed with himself for worrying about these things when the data inside the
briefcase should have been at the ofce fteen minutes ago; and realize, reluctantly, that the
racing against time, the awareness of being a cog, the elan--almost roguery of the playboy
element in the Commission which went well with his British staff ofcer appearance--even
the intradepartmental scheming and counterscheming which went on in jazz cellars at two in

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the morning, in pensions over brandy and soda, were, after all, exciting. It was only when
he forgot to take vitamin B pills the night before to ward off a hangover that these funky
periods would come at all. Most of the time the brighteyed and busy tailed Siegel would assert
himself and then he would look on the funky days as only brief aberrations. Because when you
came down to it it was fun to manoeuvre. In the army he had lived by a golden rule of Screw
the Sergeant before He Screweth Thee; later in college he had forged meal tickets, instigated
protest riots and panty raids, manipulated campus opinion through the school newspaper; and
this was the part of him inherited from a mother who at the age of 19 had struggled with
her soul one night in a railroad at somewhere in Hells Kitchen and, half-drunk on bootleg
beer, had ended up refuting Aquinas and quitting the Roman church; who would grin fondly
at her husband and refer to him as an innocent slob who never had a chance against her female
cunning, and advise Seigel never to marrv a schickseh but to nd himself some nice quiet
Jewish girl because at least there you were given a running start. For this his roommate at
college sophomore year had called him Stephen and taunted him mercilessly about the still
small Jesuit voice which kept him from being either kicked around or conscious of guilt or
simply ineffective like so many of the other Jewish boys on campus seemed to Grossmann
to be. Also, Grossmann, Siegel had retorted, it perhaps saves me from being a schmuck
like you. Grossmann would laugh and stick his nose back in a textbook. It is the seed of
your destruction, he would murmur. House divided against itself? You know. Well, here he
was, 30 and on the way to becoming a career man, and not particularly aware of destruction
mainly because he was unable to give it a name or a face, unless they were Rachels and this
he doubted. With the bottle under his arm he climbed up two ights of stairs, the few raindrops
which had caught him glistening in the shaggy tangle of his tweed coat. He hoped she had
said sevenish--he was pretty sure but it would be awkward if he arrived too early. He rang
the buzzer in front of a door that said 3F and waited. It seemed to be quiet inside and he was
just beginning to wonder if maybe she hadnt said eightish when the door opened and a wild-
looking, rangy man with erce eyebrows, wearing a tweed coat and carrying what looked
like a pig foetus under one arm, stood staring at him, an empty room behind him, and Siegel,
annoyed, realized he had goofed and that 30 years was a long time and that this might be a
rst indication of senility. They faced each other like slightly awed mirror images--different
patterns of tweed, scotch bottle and pig foetus but no discrepancy in height --with Siegel
experiencing a mixed feeling of discomfort and awe, and the word Doppelganger had just
oated into his mind when the others eyebrows shot up into twin parabolas and he stuck out
his free hand and said, Youre early but come in. Im David Lupescu.
Siegel shook hands, muttering his own name and the spell broke; he looked at the object under
Lupescus arm and saw that it really was a pig foetus, caught the faint scent of formaldehyde
and scratched his head. I brought some booze he said. Im sorry about this, Id thought
Rachel said seven. Lupescu smiled vaguely and closed the door behind him. Dont worry
about it, he said, Ive got to put this thing someplace. He motioned Siegel to a seat and
picked up an old-fashioned glass from a table, a chair from nearby, dragged the chair to the
entrance of what Siegel presumed was the kitchen, stood on the chair, took a thumbtack from
his pocket, stuck it through the umbilical cord of the pig foetus and tacked it onto the molding
over the entrance, hammering with the bottom of the glass. He jumped down off the chair and
above him the foetus swung dangerously. He looked up at it. I hope it stays there, he said,

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and then turned to face Siegel. Fetching, isnt it? Siegel shrugged. Dada exhibit in Paris on
Christmas eve, 1919, Lupescu said, used one in place of mistletoe. But ten to one this group
wont even notice it. You know Paul Brennan? He wont.
I dont know anybody, Siegel said, Ive been sort of out of touch. I just got back from
overseas last week. All the old crowd seems to have drifted away.
Lupescu stuck his hands in his pockets and looked around the room. brooding. I know,
he said grimly. Big turnover. But the types are constant. He moved toward the kitchen,
glanced in, paced back again to the French windows, then suddenly turned and shot out a
forenger at Siegel. You, he almost roared. Of course. Youre perfect. He advanced toward
Siegel menacingly, stood looming over him. Good grief, Siegel said, cowering a little. Mon
semblable, Lupescu said, mon frere. He gazed at Siegel. A sign, he said, a sign, and
deliverance. Siegel could smell alcohol fumes on Lupescus breath. I beg your pardon,
Siegel said. Lupescu began pacing around the room.
Only a matter of time, he said. Tonight. Of course. Why. Why not. Pig foetus. Symbol.
God, what a symbol. And now. Freedom- Deliverance, he screamed. Genie. Bottle. Century
after century, until Siegel, sher of souls, pulls the cork. He began running around the room.
Raincoat, he said, picking a raincoat up off the sofa, shaving gear. He disappeared into the
kitchen for a moment, came out with an overnight kit in his hands wearing the raincoat. He
paused at the door. Its all yours, he said. You are now the host. As host you are a trinity:
(a) receiver of guests-- ticking them off on his ngers--(b) an enemy and (c) an outward
manifestation, for them, of the divine body and blood.
Wait a minute, Siegel said, where the hell are you going?
The outside, Lupescu said, out of the jungle.
But look, hey, I cant make this. I dont know any of these people.
All part of it, Lupescu said airily. Youll pick it up fast enough, and was through the door
and out before Siegel could think of an answer. Ten seconds later the door opened again and
Lupescu stuck his head in and winked. Mistah Kurtz--he dead, he announced owlishly and
disappeared. Siegel sat staring at the foetus. Well now, what the hell, he said slowly. He
stood up and strolled across the room to where the phone was and dialed Rachels number.
When she answered he said, Fine friends you have.
Where are you? she said. I just got back. Siegel explained. Well Im glad you called,
Rachel said. I called your place and you werent in. I wanted to tell you, Sallys brother-in-
laws sister, a winsome little brat of fourteen, just blew into town from some girls school in
Virginia and Sally is out with Jeff so Ive got to stay here and entertain her till Sally gets back,
and by the time Im able to get away the liquor will be all gone: I know Lupescus parties.
Oh for gods sake, Siegel said irritably, this is ridiculous. If Lupescus friends are anything
like him this place is about to be invaded by a horde of raving lunatics, none of whom I know.
And now youre not even coming.
Oh its a nice crowd, she said. A little curious maybe but I think youll like them. You
ought to stay. The door was suddenly and violently kicked open and through it lurched a fat
orid adolescent in a sailor suit, carrying a girl piggy-back. Lewpayskew, the sailor shouted.
Whay aw yew, yew mothuh-lovin Roumanian.
Hold on, Siegel said. What was that again, he asked the sailor, who had deposited his
passenger on the oor. Mayun ah said whays Lewpayskew, the sailor said. God, he

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babbled into the phone, theyre coming, theyre ltering in already. What do I do, Rachel,
they cant even talk English. There is some nautical looking type here who is speaking no
language known to man.
Darling, Rachel laughed, stop acting like a war ick. Thats probably only Harvey
Duckworth, who comes from Alabama and has a charming southern accent. Youll get along
wonderfully, I know you will. Call me tomorrow and let me know everything that has
happened.
Wait, Siegel said desperately, but she had already said Bye-bye, and hung up. He stood
there holding the dead receiver. Harvey Duckworth was stomping around in the other rooms,
yelling for Lupescu; and the girl, who was very young and had long black hair and big hoop
earrings and was wearing a sweatshirt and levis -- who seemed to Siegel a perfect parody of
the girl bohemian of the 40s--stood up and looked at Siegel. I want to go to bed with you,
she intoned dramatically and all at once Siegel cheered up. He put the receiver back on the
hook and smiled. Im sorry, he said suavely, but statutory rape and all that, you know. Can
I get you a drink?
He went into the kitchen without waiting for an answer and found Duckworth sitting on the
sink trying to open a wine bottle. The cork popped out suddenly and the bottle slipped and
Chianti splashed all over Duckworths whites. Gaw damn, Duckworth said, staring at the
purple stain. Mizzable Guineas cant even make wahn bottles raht. The buzzer rang and
Siegel called, Get that would you, beautiful, and picked the Chianti bottle up off the oor.
Still some more. he said cheerfully. He was beginning to feel jovial, irresponsibly so; a
lightheadedness which he realized might be one of the rst stages of hysteria but which he
rather hoped was some vestige of the old nonchalance which had sustained him on the
Continent for the past two years. In the other room he heard what sounded like a chorus of
roaring boys, chanting dirty limericks. The girl came in and said, My god, its Brennan and
his friends.
Oh goodo, Siegel said. They seem to be in ne voice. Indeed, they were. In his suddenly
amiable state it seemed to Siegel that this account of the young fellow named Cheever who
had an affair with a beaver took on Deeper Human Signicance, was gilded with a certain
transcendental light which reminded him of that nal trio from Faust, where the golden stairs
come down and Margarethe ascends to heaven. Really lovely, he mused. The girl looked
with disgust at Duckworth and then smiled brightly at Siegel. By the way, she said, Im
Lucy.
Hi, Siegel said. My name is Cleanth but my friends call me Siegel, out of pity.
Wheres David anyway. I ought to give him hell for inviting that oaf Brennan.
Siegel pursed his lips. Hell, this was impossible. He had to trust somebody. He took her hand
and led her into the bedroom and sat her down on a bed. No, he said quickly. Not what
youre thinking. He told her about Lupescus sudden departure and she shrugged and said,
Maybe it was a good thing. He would have cracked sooner or later, he was going native.
Thats a strange way to put it, Siegel said. After all, going native in Washington, D.C.?
In more exotic places, certainly, he had seen that. He remembered a Peter Arno cartoon in
the New Yorker he had always liked, showing a girl in Apache costume, sitting on the lap
of a depraved-looking Frenchman in a sidewalk cafe; and the girls friend, obviously an
American tourist, armed with camera, shoulder-bag and guidebook, saying, with a scandalized

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expression, But Mary Lou, you mean youre not going back to Bryn Mawr, ever? Still,
stranger things had happened. In the two semesters he spent at Harvard Siegel had witnessed
the gradual degeneration of his roommate Grossmann, a proud and stubborn native of Chicago
who denied the presence of any civilization outside of Cook County and for whom Boston
was worse even than Oak Park, was in fact, a sort of apotheosis of the effete and the
puritan. Grossmann had remained unmarred, majestically sneering, happy-go-lucky, until one
Christmas eve he and Siegel and some friends and a group of Radcliffe girls had gone carolling
on Beacon hill.
Whether it was the booze they had brought along or the fact that Grossmann had just nished
reading not only Santayanas The Last Puritan but also a considerable amount of T. S. Eliot-
-and so might have been a little more susceptible to tradi tion in general and to Christmas
eve on Beacon hill in particular --or merely the bothersome tendency Grossman had to get
sentimental in the company of Radcliffe girls, he had still been touched enough to inform
Siegel later on that night that maybe there were a few human beings in Boston after all. And
this had been the rst tiny rent in that Midwestern hauteur which he had carried up to now as
a torero carries his cape; after that night it was all downhill. Grossmann took to strolling in
the moonlight with only the most patrician of Radcliffe and Wellesley girls; he discovered a
wonderful make-out spot down behind the minute man statue in Concord; he began carrying a
black umbrella and gave away all his loud clothes, substituting awless and expensive tweeds
and worsteds. Siegel was mildly disturbed at all this but it was not until one afternoon in the
early spring, when he entered their rooms at Dunster and surprised Grossmann standing in
front of the mirror, umbrella under one arm, eyebrows raised superciliously and nose ached
loftily, reciting I parked my car in Harvard yard, over and over, that he was struck with the
extent of his roommates dissipation.
The strong nasal rs Siegel had secretly admired there now eneverated and pallid; and in that
classic shibboleth, Siegel recognized poor, innocent Grossmanns swan song. A year later
Siegel got a letter, the last: Grossmann had married a Wellesley girl and they were living
in Swampscott. Sit tibi terra levis, Grossmann. But Siegel wondered how in the hell it was
possible for anyone to sink roots in a town at once as middle class and as cosmopolitan as
Washington. You could become bourgeois or one of the international set but this could happen
in any city. Unless it had nothing to do with the place at all and was a question of compulsion-
-unless there was something which linked people like Gaugin and Eliot and Grossmann, some
reason which gave them no other choice; and this was why, when it had happened in Boston
and now maybe even in Washington, for gods sake, Siegel felt uneasy and unwilling to think
about it too much.
This little Jesuit thing, this poltergeist, would start kicking around inside his head just as it had
done with the briefcase, and call him back to the real country where there were drinks to be
mixed and bon mots to be tossed out carelessly and maybe a drunk or two to take care of. It
was doing that now. So all he did was look at Lucy quizically and say, Well I dont know. He
seemed sort of under the weather. Also maybe a little neurotic.
The girl laughed softly, not trying for rapport any more, not even the bedroom kind; but
anxious now for thoughts of her own which Siegel was neither ready to be curious about nor
condent he would be able to cope with. A little neurotic, she said, is like being a little bit
pregnant. You dont know David. Hes well, Siegel, hes the only one of us who is. Siegel

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smiled. I shouldnt talk, he said, Im a stranger. Look Lucy, would you help me out a little
with this group?
Me help you? Suddenly weak, she answered with something that was so curiously both
impotence and scorn that he began to wonder how well she was herself. All right, Ill make a
deal. Mutual aid. The truth is I need a shoulder to cry on. Siegel threw a quick glance behind
him out into the kitchen, a glance which she caught. Dont worry about them, she smiled,
theyll take care of themselves for awhile. They know where the liquor is and everything.
Siegel smiled in apology, pushed the door shut and settled back on the bed next to her, resting
on one elbow.
A Klee original was on the wall facing them; two crossed BARs, hunting ries and a few
sabres hung around the other walls. The room was sparsely furnished in Swedish modern and
carpeted wall to wall. He looked down at her and said, OK, cry away.
I dont really know why I should be telling you about this, she began and it was as if she bad
said. Bless me father for I have sinned, because Siegel often thought that if all the punks,
lushes, coeds in love, woebegone PFCs--the whole host of trodden-on and disaffected--who
had approached him with that opening formula were placed end to end they would surely reach
from here back to the Grand Concourse and a timid spindleshanked boy in a slashed necktie
Except, she continued, that you look like David, you have the same kind of sympathy for
anybody who gets kicked around, I feel that somehow. Siegel shrugged. Anyway, she said,
its Brennan. Brennan and that bitch Considine.
And she went on to tell how apparentlv this female economics expert named Debby Considine
had returned a week ago from an expedition to Ontario and right away Paul Brennan had
started chasing her again. There was a tree outside her apartment house on P St. and Brennan
had climbed up this tree and waited for her to collie out and whenever she did he would
proclaim his passion for her in loud and improvised blank verse. Usually a small crowd would
collect and nally one night the cops came with ladders and hauled him down and dragged
him away.
And who does he call to come down to the precinct to bail him out, Lucy said. Me, is who.
Right before payday too. The bastard still hasnt paid me back. And to make matters worse
he already had a record. Krinkles Porcino, thats Pauls roommate, got engaged to this girl
Monica back around February. The two kids were really in love, and Paul was fond of both of
them, so that when Sybil--she was living with David at the time--started running after Krinkles
and threatening to break the thing up--well anyway she nally threw this big bitch scene with
Paul in the lobby of the Mayower and Paul ended up slugging her with a vodka bottle he
happened to be carrying, and they got him for assault. And of course David had a bad time
of it because he hates to get involved in anything, but Sam Fleischmann, whos hated Pauls
guts ever since Paul sold him $100 worth of phony uranium stock, felt so sorry for David that
he started writing poison pen letters to Sybil, dumping all over Paul. Hed write them in the
morning right after we got up, while I made breakfast, and wed both laugh and laugh because
it was so much fun.
Oh, Siegel said, ha, ha.
And then when Paul got out, she went on, what should happen but Harvey had to y into
a rage at Paul because he knew I was in love with Paul and was sending him cigarettes and
cookies and things while he was in stir, and he chased Paul for seven blocks through the theatre

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district one night with a boatswains knife. That was sort of funny too because Harvey was in
uniform and it took four SPs nally to bring him down, and even then he broke the arm of one
of them and sent another to Bethesda Naval Hospital with severe abdominal wounds. So Paul
is out on bail now and threatening to get Monica because shes living with Sam but what the
hell else can she do when Krinkles has been out of town for weeks trving to kick the habit and
all. The trouble is that damn junkie doesnt know how really good she is, Siegel. She pawned
Krinkles baritone sax only a couple of days ago because poor Sam had just lost his job at the
Smithsonian and was actually starving before she found out about it and took him in. The girls
a saint.
She went on in the same way for fteen minutes more, layng bare, like a clumsy brain
surgeon, synapses and convolutions which should never have been exposed, revealing for
Siegel the anatomy of a disease more serious than he had suspected: the badlands of the heart,
in which shadows, and crisscrossed threads of inaccurate self-analysis and Freudian fallacy,
and passages where the light and perspective were tricky, all threw you into that heightened
hysterical edginess of the sort of nightmare it is possible to have where your eyes are open and
everything in the scene is familiar, yet where, ickering behind the edge of the closet door,
hidden under the chair in the corner, is this je ne sais quoi de sinistre which sends you shouting
into wakefulness.
Until nally one of Brennans friends, whom Lucy introduced as Vincent, wandered in and
informed them that somebody had already walked through the French windows without
opening them; and Siegel realized wearily that it was going to be that kind of a party, and
having committed himself anyway by the very act of lying next to a girl he did not know and
playing the role of crying towel for half an hour, resolved in true British staff ofcer style to
bite the jolly old bullet and make the best of a bad job.
In the kitchen were a couple seated on the sink making out; Duckworth, horribly drunk, lying
on the oor and hurling pistachio nuts at the pig foetus; and a group of four or ve people
in Bermuda shorts sitting in a circle playing Prince. In the other room somebody had put
on a cha cha record and a few couples were improvising freely. Presumably intelligent talk
ickered around the room with the false brightness of heat lightning: in the space of a minute
Siegel caught the words Zen, San Francisco, and Wittgenstein, and felt a mild sense
of disappointment, almost as if he had expected some esoteric language, something out of
Albertus Magnus. Beside the pig foetus there was only one other really incongruous note in the
whole scene: a swarthy looking person in torn khakis and an old corduroy coat who stood in
one corner like some memento mori, withdrawn and melancholy. Thats Considines latest,
Lucy said, an Indian she brought back from Ontario. Boy, what a hunk.
He looks sad, Siegel said. Somebody handed Siegel an ambiguous mixture in an old-
fashioned glass and he sipped it automatically, grimaced and set it down. His name is Irving
Loon, she said dreamily.
Irving what? said Siegel.
Loon. Hes Ojibwa. Oh theres Paul. Talking to Considine the bastard. She led him over
to a corner where a diminutive junior executive type was eagerly haranguing this serpentine
brunette with heavily mascaraed eyes. At his rst glimpse of Debby Considine Siegel drew
in a low whistle and let the four ngers of his left hand wobble to and for a few times,
forgetting about Irving Loon, Prince players and drunken sailors. Marrone, he whispered.

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Lucy glared at him. Not you too, she said furiously. Goddamn all these sex machines. He
was introduced and after awhile Lucy managed to haul Brennan away on some pretext or other
and Siegel was left alone with the lady economist.
And how were the boondocks of Ontario, he said. She looked at him from under lowered
lashes. So fascinating, she murmured in a husky, detached voice. Do you know the
Ojibwa? Seigel began ipping over a stack of mental IBM cards frantically. There was
something he knew, something he had had in college. It irritated him not to be able to call the
information up because most of the courses he had taken had served no other function--at least
such had been his undergraduate protests--than to provide material for conversation at parties
like this one. Ojibwa Indians. Somewhere in Ontario. Something weird, even funny, but he
was damned if he could pin it down.
You look compassionate, Debby said suddenly. Is there somewhere we can talk? and
Siegel, pulled away from the IBM cards, thought Jesus Christ, here we go again. He led her
into the bedroom, which was beginning to look like some perversely-decorated confessional,
and wondered whether this had been David Lupescus place for listening to bent souls. He had
a hunch it was. She stood close to him and played with his Challis tie and gave him the demure
bit with the eyelashes again. Youre the same, she whispered, you have this monumental
Lupescu coolness. Youre sure youre not his doubleganger.
No, Siegel said, Im not sure. Go ahead. She hesitated and he prompted her: Bless me
father...
The eyelids ew open. David said that too. Who are you, Siegel?
For the moment a father confessor. What seems to be your trouble, my child.
Its Irving Loon, she said, sitting on the bed and playing with the empty highball glass she
had brought in with her, ignoring the irony, he was so happy back in Ontario. At ricing time,
you see, all the families are together, everyone happy, Togetherness in Ojibwa land. Blasts,
brawls, sex orgies, community sings, puberty rituals. All kinds of wonderful local color to
ll up notebook after notebook with. And Irving Loon, ten feet tall with sts like rocks and
enough to make even a jaded heart like mine uneasy. Then, surprisingly-- and, for Siegel,
embarrassingly--she began reeling off a list of the affairs she had had in all the underdeveloped
areas she had visited for the State Dept.; several pages of unofcial statistics which sounded a
little like the Catalogue aria from Don Giovanni.
It seemed she had this habit of picking up male specimens wherever she went and bringing
them back with her and dropping them after a few weeks. Her exes either assimilated in with
The Group or found a niche in some other group or dropped out of sight completely and
forever. But Irving Loon, she insisted, was different. He had this brooding James Dean quality
about him.
Hes been standing in the same corner all evening, she said. He hasnt spoken a word
for two days. I feel-- and her eyes gazed over Siegels shoulder, out into god knows where
that its not only nostalgia for the wilderness, but almost as if somehow out there, in the
hinterlands, with nothing but snow and forests and a few beaver and moose, he has come close
to something which city dwellers never nd all their lives, may never even be aware exists, and
its this that he misses, that the city kills or hides from him. Ill be damned, thought Siegel.
This broad is serious. And this is just what I cant tell Paul, she sighed. He makes fun of
Irving, calIs him ignorant. But its a divine melancholia and its what I love about him.

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Good grief, that was it.
Melancholia. Just by accident she had used that word, the psychologists term, instead of
melancholy. Little Professor Mitchell, perched like a sparrow on his desk in anthropology
lecture, hands in his coat pockets, a permanently sarcastic smile twisting one side of his mouth,
talking about psychopathy among the Ojibwa Indians. Of course. The old memory bank was
still functioning after all. You must remember that this group lives forever at the brink of
starvation, Mitchell said in that deprecating, apologetic tone which implied that for him all
cultures were equally mad; it was only the form that differed, never the content. It has been
said that the Ojibwa ethos is saturated with anxiety, and simultaneously 50 pens copied the
sentence verbatim.
The Ojibwa are trained, from childhood, to starve; the male ehilds entire upbringing is
dedicated to a single goal: that of becoming a great hunter. Emphasis is on isolation, self-
suiciency. There is no sentimentality among the Ojibwa. It is an austere and bleak existence
they lead, always one step away from death. Before he can attain to the state of manhood a boy
must experience a vision, after starving himself for several days. Often after seeing this vision
he feels he has acquired a supernatural companion, and there is a tendency to identify. Out in
the wilderness, with nothing but a handful of beaver, deer, moose and bear between him and
starvation, for the Ojibwa hunter, feeling as he does at bay, feeling a concentration of obscure
cosmic forces against him and him alone, cynical terrorists, savage and amoral deities---
this time a smile in self-reproach--which are bent on his destruction, the identication
may become complete. When such paranoid tendencies are further intensied bv the highly
competitive life of the summer villages at ricing and berry-picking time, or bv the curse,
perhaps, of a shaman with some personal grudge, the Ojibwa becomes highly susceptible to
the well-known Windigo psychosis.
Siegel knew about the Windigo, all right. He remembered being scared out of his wits once
at camp by the reside yarn image of a mile-high skeleton made of ice, roaring and crashing
through the Canadian wilderness, grabbing up humans by the handful and feeding on their
esh. But he had outgrown the nightmares of boyhood enough to chuckle at the professors
description of a half-famished hunter, already slightly warped, identifying with the Windigo
and turning into a frenzied cannibal himelf, foraging around the boondocks for more food after
he had gorged himself on the bodies of his immediate family. Get the picture, he had told
Grossmann that night, over mugs of Wurtzburger. Altered perception. Simultaneously, all
over god knows how many square miles, hundreds, thousands of these Indians are looking at
each other out of the corner of their eye and not seeing wives or husbands or little children at
all. What they see is big fat juicy beavers. And these Indians are hungry, Grossmann. I mean,
my gawd. A big mass psychosis. As far as the eye can reach-- he gestured dramatically--
Beavers. Succulent, juicy, fat.
How yummy, Grossmann had commented wryly. Sure, it was amusing, in a twisted sort of
way. And it gave anthropologists something to write about and people at parties something to
talk about. Fascinating, this Windigo psychosis. And oddly enough its rst stages were marked
by a profound melancholia. That was what had made him remember, a juxtaposition of words,
an accident. He wondered why Irving Loon had not been talking for two days. He wondered
if Debby Considine knew about this area of the Ojibwa personality.

9
And Paul just wont understand, she was saying. Of course it was a bitchy thing to complain
to the police but Id lie awake nights, thinking of him crouched up in that tree, like some
evil spirit, waiting for me. I suppose Ive always been a little afraid of something like that,
something unfamiliar, something I couldnt manipulate. Oh yes, she admitted to his raised
eyebrows, Ive manipulated them all right. I didnt want to, Siegel, god knows I didnt. But I
cant help it. Siegel felt like saying, Use a little less mascara or something, but was brought
up short by an awareness which had been at the back of his mind since Lupescu had left: a
half-developed impression about the role Lupescu had occupied for this group; and it occurred
to him that his double would never have said anything like that. You might give absolution or
penance, but no practical advice. Tucked snugly in some rectory of the mind, Cleanth Siegel,
S.J., looked on with approval. Changing the subject for a moment, Siegel said, do you
know, has Irving told you anything about the Windigo?
Its funny you should mention that, she said, its a nature god or something, that they
worship. Im not on the anthropology end of things or I could tell you more about it. But the
last time Irving was talking--he speaks English so well--he said once Windigo, Windigo, stay
by me. Its this poetic, religious quality in him thats so touching. And right about here Siegel
began to feel really uneasy, to hear this tiny exasperating dissonance. Poetic? Religious? Ha,
ha.
Im afraid, she was saying. I get so depressed, so exhausted. Even as a little girl I used to
be scared of being hit by a meteorite, isnt that silly? This terror of the unfamiliar, this sort of
arbitrary act of god or something. It got bad, very bad, two years ago and I tried to straighten
everything out with an act of Debby Considine, by taking rather more than the prescribed
amount of Seconal. Then when it didnt work I rode up on another crest and Ive been there
for two years and I guess non Im about due for a trough again.
Siegel sat up suddenly and glared straight ahead of him, at the crossed BARs on the wall. He
was getting fed up with this. Lupescu was wrong: you did not pick this sort of thing up quickly
at all. It was a slow process and dangerous because in the course of things it was very possible
to destroy not only yourself but vour ock as well. He took her hand. Come on, he said, Id
like to meet Irving. Sav for your penance ten Hail Marys and make a good Act of Contrition.
Oh my god, she murmured. I am heartily sorry . . . and apparently she was, but probably
only because the interview had been cut short. They threaded their way between several inert
bodies in the kitchen. The cha cha side had been replaced by Bartoks Concerto for Orchestra
and Siegel smiled grimly because of its appropriateness; because he knew he could listen to
anything else but this mad Hungarian without getting bugged, but at the sound of an entire
string section run suddenly amok, shrieking like an uprooted mandrakes trying to tear itself
apart, the nimble little Machiavel inside him would start to throw things at the mensch who had
just cast off adolescence and who still sat perpetual shivall for people like Debby Considine
and Lucy and himself and all the other dead, trying to goad it into action; and he wondered if
perhaps Lucys diagnosis of Lupescus trouble hadnt been correct and if someday he, Siegel,
might not nd himself standing in front of some mirror with a pig foetus under one arm,
reciting Freudian cant at himself to get the proper inection right.
Irving Loon, Debby said, Cleanth Siegel. Irving Loon stood motionless, seemingly
unaware of their presence. Debby put her hand on the Ojibwas arm and caressed it. Irving,
she said softly, please say something. Damn the torpedoes, Siegel thought. Full speed ahead.

10
Windigo, he said quietly and Irving Loon jumped as if an ice cube had been dropped down
his neck. He looked intently at Siegel, probing suddenly with black, piercing eyes. Then he
shifted his gaze to Debby and smiled wanly. He put his arm around her waist and nuzzled her
cheek. Debby, he murmured, my beautiful little beaver.
Isnt that sweet, Debby said, smiling over her shoulder at Siegel. Oh my god, Siegel thought.
Oh no. Beaver? Now wait a minute. Somebody was tugging at Siegels coat sleeve and he
turned swiftly, nervously, and saw Brennan. Can I see you alone for a minute, Brennan said.
Siegel hesitated. Irving Loon and Debby were whispering endearments to one another. Sure,
okay, Siegel said absently. They crunched over the broken glass from the French windows
and went out on a small balcony, which was just as well, because Siegel was beginning to get
a little sick of the bedroom. The rain had dwindled to a light mist and Siegel pulled his coat
collar up. I hear youre a pretty sympathetic guy, Brennan began, and I guess you know
how it is with me and Debby. The truth is Im worried about that Indian.
So am I, Siegel started to say and then caught himself. This theory about why Irving Loon
was not talking was based only on suspicion; and this whole absurd, surrealist atmosphere had
after all been working on an imagination known occasionally to go off the deep end. So instead
he said, I could see where you might. Brennan turned crafty. I think hes using hypnosis
on her, he conded, darting quick glances back inside to see if anyone was listening. Siegel
nodded profoundly.
Brennan went on to explain his side of the tree-climbing episode and by the time he was
through Siegel, who had not been paying attention, was surprised to nd, on looking at his
watch for the rst time that evening, that it was almost eleven. A few people had left and
the party was showing the rst signs of slowing down. Siegel wandered out into the kitchen
where he found half a fth of scotch, and made a scotch on the rocks; his rst drink, as a
matter of fact, since he had arrived. He stood in the kitchen, alone, trying to assess things. First
stage, melancholia. Second stage, direct violence. How much had Irving Loon been drinking?
How much did starvation have to do with the psychosis once it got under way? And then
the enormity of it hit him. Because if this hunch were true, Siegel had the power to work
for these parishioners a kind of miracle, to bring them a very tangible salvation. A miracle
involving a host, true, but like no holy eucharist. He was the only one, besides Irving Loon,
who knew. Also, a sober voice reminded him, he was apparently the only one who had the
Windigo psychosis as his sole piece of information about the Ojibwa. It might be a case of
generalization, there might be any number of things wrong with Irving Loon. Still, perhaps .
. . a case of conscience.
Vincent came up to him and wanted to talk but he waved him off. Siegel had had about enough
of confessions. He wondered how his predecessor had managed to remain as father confessor
for as long as he had. It occurred to him now that Lupescus parting comment had been no
drunken witticism; but that the man really had, like some Kurtz, been possessed by the heart of
a darkness in which no ivory was ever sent out from the interior, but instead hoarded jealously
by each of its gatherers to build painfully, fragment by fragment, temples to the glory of some
imago or obsession, and decorated inside with the art work of dream and nightmare, and
locked nally against a hostile forest, each agent in his own ivory tower, having no windows
to look out of, turning further and further inward and cherishing a small ame behind the altar.
And Kurtz too had been in his way a father confessor. Siegel shook his head, trying to clear it.

11
Somebody had started a crap game in the other room and Siegel sat down on the kitchen table,
swinging one leg, looking in at the crowd. Oh youre a ne group, he muttered.
He was beginning to think that maybe he should tell all these people to go to hell and go
drop in on Rachel after all when he saw Irving Loon come dreamlike in under the pig foetus,
eyes staring straight ahead, unseeing. Siegel, paralyzed, watched Irving Loon go into the
bedroom, drag a chair over to one wall, stand on it, and unhook one of the BARs. Rapt,
entirely absorbed in what he was doing, the Indian began rummaging around in the drawers of
Lupescus desk. Gingerly Siegel edged himself off the table and tiptoed to the bedroom door.
Irving Loon, still singing to himself produced with a smile a box of .30 caliber ammunition.
Happily he began putting rounds into the magazine. Siegel counted the rounds as he put them
in. The magazine would hold 20. All right, Siegel, he said to himself, here it is. Moment of
truth.
Espada broken, muleta lost, horse disembowelled, picadors sick with fear. Five in the afternoon,
crowd screaming. Miura bull, sharp horns, charging in. He gured there were about sixty
seconds to make a decision, and now the still small Jesuit voice, realizing that the miracle was
in his hands after all, for real, vaunted with the same sense of exhiliration Siegel had once felt
seeing ve hundred hysterical freshmen advancing on the womens dorms, knowing it was he
who had set it all in motion. And the other, gentle part of him sang kaddishes for the dead and
mourned over the Jesuits happiness, realizing however that this kind of penance was as good
as any other; it was just unfortunate that Irving Loon would be the only one partaking of any
body and blood, divine or otherwise. It took no more than ve seconds for the two sides to
agree that there was really only one course to take.
Quietly Siegel strolled back through the kitchen, through the living room, taking his time,
unnoticed by the crap shooters, opened the door, stepped out into the hall and closed the
door behind him. He walked downstairs, whistling. At the rst oor landing, he heard the
rst screams, the pounding of footsteps, the smashing of glass. He shrugged. What the hell,
stranger things had happened in Washington. It was not until he had reached the street that he
heard the rst burst of the BAR re.

12